Sanders’ school reforms don’t address the problems

Newly installed Arkansas Governor Sanders could have picked any number of other issues more critical to the welfare of Arkansas residents than CRT. Her decision to address Critical Race Theory signals her lack of insight or, more likely, her debt to her behind-the-scenes bosses who care nothing for Arkansas citizens—with the exception of manipulating them into voting Republican.

Like her predecessors in the Arkansas state house, Sanders won office with the votes of a minority of eligible voters. Over 1.79 million Arkansans are eligible, but only 50.8% of them voted, meaning that Sanders won office with the votes of only 31.9% of eligible voters. Arkansas ranks last in both voter turnout and registration and has the highest absentee ballot rejection rate in the nation. This parallels other low rankings of the state:

  • 44th in health matters. Measures contributing to Arkansas’s low overall performance include the number of adults who have lost six or more teeth, adults without dental visits, and premature deaths from treatable causes — all measures for which Arkansas is ranked last among states. Other factors include the number of children who are overweight or obese, the number of adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs, and preventable hospitalizations for adults ages 18–64.[1]
  • 47th in education, based on factors including educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races[2]
  • 43rd in economic activity, economic health, and a state’s innovation potential[3]
  • 4th worst state to live in, with the breakdown as follows:
    • 35th – Homeownership Rate
    • 45th – % of Population in Poverty
    • 18th – Income Growth
    • 29th – % of Insured Population
    • 48th – % of Adults in Fair or Poor Health
    • 42nd – Average Weekly Work Hours[4]
  • 2nd unhappiest state based on employment, leisure activities, mental health, personal finance, personal relationships, physical health, and social policies[5]
  • 3rd highest in pornography use[6]
  • 2nd in teen pregnancy with 27.8 per 1,000 – Sex education is allowed but not required, and local districts largely sidestep the topic. Arkansas schools are not required to offer instruction on HIV or STIs. Further, sex education—in the rare instances it is offered—is hamstrung with multiple restrictions:
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum must stress abstinence.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
  • Children in foster care (2022): 4,127.  Households with grandparents responsible for grandchildren under age 18: 70,290[7]
  • 5th highest incarceration rate of all states, higher than the national rate[8]
  • Poverty rate
    • Extreme poverty 9%
    • Poverty rate 16.2%
    • Working family under 200% of poverty line 39.4%
    • Percent of jobs that are low-wage 30.1%

In a 2014 study, of the total eligible voters in the state, 46% were Republican, 38% Democrat, and 16% non-affiliated. Evangelicals comprise 61% of Republican voters, 29% of Democrat, and 11% of non-affiliated. Predictably, Republican voters are less educated, with 42% with high school or less, 34% with some college, 17% with a college degree, and 6% with post-graduate degree compared to Democratic voters with 52% high school or less, 30% some college, 9% college graduate, and 9% with post graduate degree.[9]

While Sanders states her priority is education improvement, the areas of education which she targeted in her statement are very limited. Aside from banning CRT, she has nominated Jacob Oliva to head the Department of Education. Oliva has previously served that role in Florida, where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ has been one of the guiding mantras of the DeSantis administration; the measure “contains language to prevent the ‘instruction’ or ‘discussion’ of sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels and in an ‘age-appropriate’ way. The vagueness of the law has called into question how teachers could handle teaching history or questions raised in class about sexual orientation.”[10]

Undoubtedly the most destructive education measure touted by Sanders is the voucher option for parents, which Sanders vows to enact. The National Education Association explains why vouchers are not in America’s best interests:

  • No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers. This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs.  Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.
  • Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded. The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.  

Many Arkansas parents are strongly evangelical and would prefer religion and prayer be included in their children’s education. But we’ve already been there.

  • The Supreme Court entered the evolution debate in 1968, when it ruled, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that Arkansas could not eliminate from the high school biology curriculum the teaching of “the theory that mankind descended from a lower order of animals.” Arkansas’ exclusion of that aspect of evolutionary theory, the court reasoned, was based on a preference for the account of creation in the book of Genesis and thus violated the state’s constitutional obligation of religious neutrality.

We’ve seen what can occur when religious belief usurps rational education. The Duggar family homeschooled their children in ‘devout Christian beliefs’ including oldest child Josh Duggar who, after molesting his younger sisters and their friends, is serving a twelve-year prison term for ‘receiving’ child pornography. Reports state that Jim Bob Duggar consulted ‘church elders’ who apparently did not urge him to report his son’s abuse to the authorities. Josh’s parents kept it secret until the statute of limitations had expired.

In fact, it was this nest of evangelical excess in Springdale from which sprang the Reverend Ronnie Floyd. The following is excerpted from Wikipedia’s page on Floyd:

  • A strong advocate of evangelism and discipleship, Floyd was a member of the “conservative resurgence” that retook control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1980s. In 1989 he was a candidate to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was defeated by Mike Huckabee.  …On June 10, 2014, Dr. Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s annual gathering held in Baltimore. Upon close of the meeting, he became the 61st president of the SBC, succeeding the Rev. Fred Lute. …In October, 2019, at a conference regarding care for those who have been sexually abused in Christian contexts, Rachael Denhollander referenced abusive treatment of a sexual abuse victim by Dr. Floyd and other leaders at the Executive Committee as an example of why those who are abused are reticent to report.
  • Subsequently, in May, 2021, multiple internal whistle blower reports alleged Dr. Floyd had actively sought to intimidate victims, advocates, and stall progress in the sexual abuse inquiry within the Southern Baptist Convention. …In an unprecedented move following weeks of turmoil over allegations of Floyd’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted to mandate an independent third party investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases, victims, and advocates, including an investigation into Dr. Floyd’s actions.
  • …Floyd’s leadership was marked by yet another unprecedented milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention when he and the Executive Committee trustees failed to fully comply with the directive of the Convention’s delegates when, amidst calls for his removal and a tumultuous trustee meeting, Floyd’s resistance to complete transparency and participation in the commissioned abuse task force was supported by the Executive Committee trustees.

Floyd subsequently resigned after the independent investigation revealed that Floyd’s committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with “resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility” to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued – even as the committee publicly claimed it didn’t have the authority to create such a list. A LIST OF BAPTIST MINISTERS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE!

While multiple sexual abuse scandals within churches is not the topic at hand, hardly a week passes without yet another report of sexual misdeeds by pastors, youth counselors, or other church personnel. To a disinterested bystander, it seems the frantic outrage over drag queens (who, incidentally, are rarely if ever accused of sexual misconduct) would be more appropriately directed toward religious leaders. To assume that children are ‘safer’ or more lovingly educated within the context of parochial schools is yet another example of willful ignorance. Yet Sanders, herself the child of a Baptist minister, is apparently blind to this hypocrisy.

Republicans routinely cultivate a receptive audience of voters by spotlighting hot button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, ‘woke’ culture, and religion, yet there is scant evidence that any of their radical rhetoric or legislation has any positive impact on the troubles Arkansas faces. [Based on the outraged edicts from evangelicals, a casual observer might assume that it’s drag queens abusing all these children rather than religious leaders. Strangely, no record of drag queen abuses is found.] Children still leave their school years without the ability to read or reason, without understanding of how the government works or the scientific method, without the skills necessary to negotiate life in the modern world.

Some of this results from the parents’ inadequacy in time or knowledge, a generational failing in many Arkansas households. But it can be argued that the greater failing is in Arkansas’ penchant for electing more of the same, people like Sanders, who can’t seem to grasp the actual needs of Arkansas children—not banning CRT or saying ‘gay,’ not siphoning tax dollars away from public schools, not school prayer or any of the other worthless ideas promoted by Republicans. What is needed is for government to get its foot off the neck of teachers and offer much higher pay in order to attract skilled instructors who know how to engage students in the love of learning.


[1] https://achi.net/newsroom/arkansas-ranked-44th-among-states-in-health-system-performance-scorecard/

[2] https://www.kark.com/news/state-news/arkansas-among-least-educated-states-study-says/

[3] https://www.thecentersquare.com/arkansas/report-ranks-arkansas-as-one-of-the-ten-worst-economies-in-the-u-s/article_97cf8c72-e679-11ec-8105-8753bf509325.html

[4] https://www.nwahomepage.com/news/report-arkansas-is-2022s-4th-worst-state-to-live-in/

[5] https://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/missouri-news/missouri-arkansas-rank-as-some-of-unhappiest-states-in-us/

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20160416220848/http://www.cyberpsychology.eu:80/ view.php?cisloclanku=2015120302

[7] https://spotlightonpoverty.org/states/arkansas/

[8] https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/incarceration-rates-by-state

[9] “Party affiliation among adults in Arkansas,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/state/arkansas/party-affiliation/

The Agenda of Gov. Sarah H. Sanders

Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has raised the colors for her term at the helm of the ship of this state. Not that these are ‘her’ colors, per se, but rather edicts scripted for her by her bosses behind the Republican curtain. These are the same entities who put her in front of a microphone to lie for Trump as his press secretary, apparently under the promise that they would support her efforts toward future political office.

Evidence of her bought-and-paid-for status can be found in the immediate issuance of her ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public schools. The boiler-plate executive order commands, in part, that the Arkansas Department of Education:

“Review the rules, regulations, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”

Sanders’ measure is put forth as enforcement of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241), which was established to ensure equal rights to everyone.

“People of one color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law…”

This and similar bans present two absurdities. One, the ban alleges that efforts to reduce and/or eliminate the negative impact of entrenched racism are a form of racism. Two, the ban demonstrates either an utter lack of understanding of CRT or an ingrained denial of systemic racism, either of which would be remedied by a study of CRT. The rightwing furor over CRT is a perfect example of racist thinking and reassures its racist followers that rightwing Republicans will resist any effort to encourage white people to think equitably of their darker-skinned brethren.

Critical Race Theory advances the idea that multiple aspects of American law, institutions, and social structures enshrine racist ideas. Wikipedia describes the tenets of CRT as follows:

“Scholars of CRT say that race is not “biologically grounded and natural”; rather, it is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color; and that racism is not an aberration, but a normalized feature of American society. According to CRT, negative stereotypes assigned to members of minority groups benefit white people and increase racial oppression. Individuals can belong to a number of different identity groups…

“Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930 – 2011), an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, writes that racial equality is ”impossible and illusory” and that racism in the U.S. is permanent. According to Bell, civil-rights legislation will not on its own bring about progress in race relations; alleged improvements or advantages to people of color “tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups,” in what Bell calls “interest convergence.” These changes do not typically affect—and at times even reinforce—racial hierarchies. This is representative of the shift in the 1970s, in Bell’s re-assessment of his earlier desegregation work as a civil rights lawyer. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s decisions that had resulted in the re-segregation of schools.

“The concept of standpoint theory became particularly relevant to CRT when it was expanded to include a black feminist standpoint by Patricia Hill Collins. First introduced by feminist sociologists in the 1980s, standpoint theory holds that people in marginalized groups, who share similar experiences, can bring a collective wisdom and a unique voice to discussions on decreasing oppression. In this view, insights into racism can be uncovered by examining the nature of the U.S. legal system through the perspective of the everyday lived experiences of people of color.

“According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tenets of CRT have spread beyond academia, and are used to deepen understanding of socio-economic issues such as “poverty, police brutality, and voting rights violations,” that are impacted by the ways in which race and racism are “understood and misunderstood” in the United States.[1]

Conservatives, including Governor Sanders’ managers, look for any advances toward greater social equity as a destructive force to their world view. Or, perhaps more to the point, greater acceptance of social equity would reduce or eliminate race as a hot button issue in driving Republican voters to the ballot box.

“One conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation, recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free-speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline—such as the Promise program in Broward County, Fla., that some parents blame for the Parkland school shootings. “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed.”[2]

“[On the other hand,] Leading critical race theory scholars view the GOP-led measures as hijacking the national conversation about racial inequality that gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota. Some say the ways Republicans describe it are unrecognizable to them. Cheryl Harris, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on the topic, said it’s a myth that critical race theory teaches hatred of white people and is designed to perpetuate divisions in American society. Instead, she said she believes the proposals limiting how racism can be discussed in the classroom have a clear political goal: “to ensure that Republicans can win in 2022.”[3]

Other early signals from oligarchs behind Sanders’ governorship include her push for school vouchers whereby tax dollars can be funneled into religious and private schools who can offer non-scientific theories of human origin and alternative histories while ignoring important preparation for citizenship such as debate and civics. Sanders also has plans to address the state’s shortcomings in prison space, although it is doubtful this will translate into an innovative look at ways to reduce the demand. More likely, her ‘reforms’ will mean spending more of the state’s scarce tax dollars on building more prisons in order to, as she has stated, requiring prisoners to serve out their full terms.

Speaking of tax dollars, Sanders also plans to reduce taxes with the goal of eliminating income tax. Her plan for accomplishing this pipe dream is to find ways for the state to operate more efficiently. Her campaign statement on this topic hints at the real goal:

“When I take office, we will work on responsibly phasing out the state income tax to reward work – NOT government dependency – and let you keep more of your hard-earned money in the failing Biden economy,” Sanders said in a Twitter post.

According to critics, this is simply the latest Republican iteration of their efforts to please their masters: “to wreck the state’s fiscal system so that people of inherited riches or high incomes will never again have to worry about paying much in the way of taxes to support education, health care and law enforcement — i.e. government services for the needy and the commoners, for which a few comfortable people think they should not have to pay.”[4]

With all cannons on deck loaded with her preprogrammed agenda, we can be certain this is only the beginning of pushing Arkansas further into the sea floor. Ironically, argument can be made that the label ‘ideologies’ such as forbidden in the CRT ban could be assigned to religion, i.e. “the beliefs and practices of that religion [which] support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.”[5]


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory

[2] Sawchuk, Stephen. “What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Is It Under Attack?” Education Week, Ma 18, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @  https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

[3] “Critical race theory is a flashpoint for conservatives, but what does it mean?” PBS Newshour, Nov 4, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @ https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/so-much-buzz-but-what-is-critical-race-theory

[4] https://arktimes.com/columns/ernest-dumas/2022/08/25/a-point-of-no-return-an-end-to-income-tax-in-arkansas-would-be-permanent

[5] https://revisesociology.com/2018/11/09/is-religion-ideological/

Second Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past

While five of the articles in this collection are entirely new, the other four have been previously published in Flashback, the quarterly journal of the Washington County Historical Society, Fayetteville, Arkansas, or in one of my books, as follows:

Chapter 1 – New! Daguerreotype was the first form of photography, and Washington County had several daguerreotype professionals in the years before the Civil War. The story follows Anderson Frieze and documents others in this image-making profession circa 1850-1880.

Chapter 2 – This article has been expanded with additional information about the Yoes family from the time of their immigration from Germany through three generations. Previously published in various parts in The West Fork Valley: The West Fork of White River, Arkansas, Its Environs & Settlement before 1900.

Chapter 3 – This award-winning article about Jesse Gilstrap tracks his travel to the gold fields of 1850 California, his inventions and millwright operations in south Washington County, and his efforts on behalf of the Union during the Civil War. Published in 2018, Flashback.

Chapter 4 – Mostly new! An earlier brief version of this story examining the murder of a man on a downtown sidewalk in Fayetteville appeared in Murder in the County: 50 True Stories of the Old West.

Chapter 5 – New! “The Final Abuse of Ann Jarvis” recounts the horrific murder of a wife and mother in a case of extreme domestic violence and mental illness.

Chapter 6 – New! “Fayetteville’s Immoral Houses” uncovers the previously hidden world of prostitution in Fayetteville.

Chapter 7 – This exposé of an auto theft ring operating in Fayetteville in the 1930s previously appeared in Flashback.

Chapter 8 – New! Circuses drew enormous crowds through the 19th and early 20th centuries, even to locations like Fayetteville whose population at the time of the first circus was less than 1,000 people.

Chapter 9 – The story of the Brumfields and their fated dream to build Fayetteville’s Downtown Motor Lodge appeared previously in Flashback. This article tracks the rise and fall of that dream to the vacant lot that scars Fayetteville’s downtown today.

Great last minute gift! Paperback $11.95 Amazon

The Family Histories of Breckenridge, Williams, Morrow,

Smelser, Andrews, Clark, Hall, Massey, and Eubanks

Plus Lovelady and Futrell

in Greene County, Arkansas

Combining generations of family history and up-to-date genealogical information, this collection of ancestry information tracks a group of families which settled in Greene County, Arkansas in the first two decades of statehood. Family trees, deed records, census records, and other official records create a factual framework for personal narratives and vintage photographs, creating a fascinating archive of information for any descendant of these families as well as any fan of local history.

Each marriage between these pioneer families brought certain talents and backgrounds to the next generation. They farmed the rich land of Crowley’s Ridge and other Greene County areas, weathered the storms of poverty and loss, and suffered the losses to sickness and war. Yet they survived, and their great-grandchildren entered the twentieth century determined to continue as they had begun.

Now the 21st century brings us the internet with its vast collection of historical documents, making it finally possible to reflect on their adventures and aspirations. The story of these families is the story of thousands of us descended from them. Includes an extensive ‘vocabulary’ of downhome sayings.

Paperback $14.95, Amazon

Good Times: A History of Night Spots and Live Music in Fayetteville, Arkansas

In 2019, Fayetteville, Arkansas found itself named among the top three American cities for live music, placing third after Austin, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. In this history of Fayetteville’s nightspots and musicians, we celebrate the ancient human tradition of music and dance. These were – and still are – the places where live music finds its most enthusiastic audience, where musicians practice a craft as old as time, where the drumbeat and lyrical voice travel straight to the heart.

Among the hundreds of start-up bands pursuing their moment in the spotlight, some of Fayetteville’s bands and musicians have gone on to national, even international fame. Standing behind these musicians are the promoters, nightclubs, and rehearsal spaces that supported and encouraged them.

Perhaps more importantly, a steady stream of new talent, new sounds, new ideas attract passionate new audiences to join in the good times. How can this be? What strange cocktail of talent and public appreciation come together here to produce such a rich legacy of irresistible music and the places and professionals who enable its existence? Only a historical view of this Ozark city, its musical artists, and its creative commons can begin to illustrate the full picture.

Multiple 5-star reviews!

Paperback $26.95 Amazon Washington County Historical Society

The Violent End of the Gilliland Boys

Christmas Day horse races 1872, Middle Fork Valley. Bud Gilliland waits, eager for another chance at Newton Jones. Only this time, after two years of sparring, Newton gallops up in a cloud of dust, lifts his Spencer rifle to his shoulder to find Bud in his sights, and pulls the trigger, sending Bud to a well-earned grave.

Determined to wreak vengeance on his little brother’s killer, William Jefferson “Jeff” Gilliland takes control of a posse meant to bring Newton Jones to justice. But Jeff’s plan for the posse to kill “every last son of a bitch” goes horribly wrong and brings indictments for murder against Jeff and the rest of his posse.

Before the curtains closed in 1890 on these descendants of West Fork pioneers J. C. and Rebecca Gilliland, two other sons and a grandson would die violent deaths while yet another grandson serves hard time for murder.

What was it about the Gillilands?

This recounting of the family tracks their ancestry, their pioneer years on untamed land, and the hard work that made them one of the wealthiest families in Washington County, Arkansas. A fascinating tale of brash ego, brave gallantry, and plain old bad luck.

Paperback, $ 9.95, Amazon

Ray: One Man’s Life

“I’ve had my jaw broke three times, my nose broke five times to the point that the VA had to do the operation they do to boxers. My hand’s been broke and on fire once, enough that the skin was gone clear back to my wrist. I’ve fell off buildings, ladders, and mountains. Somehow I survived all that craziness.”

How Ray Mooney survived the incredible journey of his life is indeed a question for the ages. Polio, combat assault jumps from helicopters in Vietnam, and three children by three different wives didn’t kill him. Neither did the flagrant murder of his father by his father’s latest wife. But the traumas changed him, as they would change any man.

Told in his own words, Ray’s life story rushes from one shocking experience to the next and brings him to the last days as he faces end stage lung disease. Turkey killer, outlaw, entrepreneur, and disabled vet, this boy from the horse farms and tobacco fields of Kentucky relates his adventures with wry wit and breathtaking honesty.

One of several 5 star reviews:

“Ray” is one of the people you don’t usually find in books, especially as the central character.
As a true story, honestly served up without sweeping much out of sight, his story is about as raw and painful as most of us can bear or dare to step into. Wars change people for their entire lifetimes and in different ways. Vietnam certainly did that to Ray. If nothing else comes of his story inside readers’ minds and guts, at least maybe they’ll realize what we do to each other and what’s done to us in love and war defines who we are. Ray’s one of the survivors, one of the good ones.

Another 5 star review:

The take away from this book is that Ray Mooney has lived one tough life. And you won’t get any Pollyanna ending from it either. No falsely uplifting conclusion to make you feel good about yourself and the world. Nope, none of that. This book is about being honest and authentic. Put together by highly skilled author and historian Denele Campbell from the personal recollections of Ray Mooney, this basically chronological memoir takes us from the impoverished hills of Kentucky to the terrors of combat in Viet Nam. We learn about Ray’s many loves, wives and children and the horror of his father’s murder by Murderin’ Liz, one of Ray’s stepmothers. There’s no way to recount all the stories in here, there are too many of them and they often beggar the imagination to describe. Suffice it to say it is an extraordinary read, and a fast one. I give it five stars on sheer candidness alone.

Paperback, $9.95, Amazon

South County

1972. A Yankee learns the Ozarks way and lives to tell his tales. Now almost a native, Denny fondly reminisces about the people and places of his adopted home.

Denny Luke is an adventurer. During his years as a Navy man, he built hot rods with money he made with shipboard loansharking. He returned to his native Ohio where he soon tired of the mechanic’s life. Computers had just started to break the surface in 1966, the perfect attraction to a young man with a sharp mind and plenty of ambition.

Hot cars and Enduro motorcycle racing occupied Denny’s next few years as he helped usher in the computer age in Minneapolis. But another adventure awaited when in 1970 he fell in with a bunch of hippies. By 1972, he had found his way to the Ozarks.

An avid photographer and storyteller, Denny shares the adventures of his life as he recalls the outrageous backwoods tales and colorful characters who populate the southern fringe of Washington County in Northwest Arkansas.

Paperback, $9.95 Amazon

New Release! The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, the world of entertainment experienced a massive shift. The invention of electronic media—radio, recordings, movies—brought music to remote homes and new audiences. Sweeping Fayetteville, Arkansas, and its outlying areas before its new wave, the familiar sounds of minstrels and brass bands soon made room for opera, jazz, and the Roaring Twenties.

Key to these transformations were three men and an innovation in the Black community, each taken singly in these chapters. Frank Barr spanned the days of military brass bands to the innovation of his boys’ band that performed soundtracks for silent movies. Henry Tovey, an import from the conservatories of Illinois, took the University of Arkansas fine arts program to unexpected fame. Owen Mitchell, a musician of unusual talent, embraced jazz and led one of the area’s most popular swing bands. Finally, the Black Diamond Orchestra rose from the heart of Fayetteville’s Black community to popular acclaim across the region.

The world of entertainment enjoyed by so many today grew from these roots, from the talented few who generously shared their knowledge and passion and gave music a future of unexpected and thrilling potential.

Paperback, $19.95. Available at Amazon

The Campbells, Part VI – The Children of William and Melinda Campbell

This is the final chapter of the Campbell Family History to be presented here. Subsequent family tree information can be found in my book, A Crime Unfit To Be Named: The Prosecution of John William Campbell. The ‘crime’ involved consensual sexual activity and sent a 72-year-old man to state prison.

John Randolph Campbell

John Randolph Campbell, holding a Bible, believed in his late 20s circa 1875-1880

Records of John Randolph’s birth name a birth year of 1853, although various other records show conflicting dates. A church record states that he was born December 24, 1853, in Independence County, Arkansas. In 1873 at age 19, he married Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Prince at Sulphur Rock, Independence County, Arkansas. She was his second cousin once removed.

Miss Prince was born September 1849 in Tennessee, daughter of William Prince and Martha Lamberson.  This Lamberson is related to John’s mother’s family: Melinda was her first cousin once removed. William J. Prince was born 1813 in Georgia, and died during the Civil War in Independence County, Arkansas, as did his wife Martha Lamberson Prince, born 1825 in North Carolina. Sarah Sally’s siblings were William H., b 1842 TN (CSA AR 8th Inf. Co. E, enrolled August 6, 1862 at Sulphur Rock, AR, between Newark and Batesville); Mary A., born 1847 TN (married James Scott); Virginia b 1850 MS; James Ferdinand b 1852 AR; Martha Jane b 1857 AR (married George Hill 1872; David Bruton 1879);  John T. b 1858 AR; Tennessee “Babe” b 1860 (raised by Mary, married Riley Whaley).

Birth records for the couple’s sixth child, Benjamin, dated 1888, states that John age 38 was a farmer and preacher, born at Newark Arkansas, and that Sarah age 40 was born in Mississippi.

John Randolph Campbell and his new wife Sally produced the following children:

i. Emma Campbell b. 1874, Newton Co., AR, d. 1888 of rheumatic fever at age fourteen

ii. Mary Molly Campbell b 1876, m. Frank Pratt(s). Children were Mabel m. Fred Albert; Lizzie m. John Hilburn; Beulah; Pierce; Lennox; Urcil “Huck”; Margie; Nettie (died).

iii. John William Campbell, b 1878, m. Mary Jane Ellis. John William is the great-great grandfather of my three Campbell children.

iv. Jack O’Neil, b. Dec 25, 1882 at Newark, Indep. Co, AR, d. Apr 14, 1960, Newport, married July 19, 1903 to Emma Bell Hicks and produced Lennie Mae, Bertha, Commie O’Neal, Rutha Lee, and Opal Christine.  Jack then married Donnie Inness and produced another eight children: Edna Irene, Burl Nathaniel, Aubrey Evereett, Almeta Beatrice, Leeaun Utah, J. C., Alvin Newton, and Thelma Joyce.

v.  James Campbell b 1880, m. Mary Willis. Children were Dallas, Nanny, and another daughter.

vi. Clu Campbell, died at age 9 – not found in family birth records

vii. Benjamin Harvey Campbell, b June 14, 1888, Pleasant Plains, Indep. Co AR, d. Nov 19, 1966, Newport, Jackson Co, AR. married Willie Hicks, married Ocra Ellen Tibbs, and their children were Eva Jewell and Clemins Alvin. He then married Helen Carmen “Nell” Yancy, and produced Vesta Lola, Virginia Vivian, Mather Carnell, Veda Lee, Milous Harvey, and Benjamin Morris.

The 1880 Newton County Arkansas census for Jackson Township lists John Campbell age 26 with wife Sarah age 25, with children Emma age 6, Mary age 4, John age 2, and James six months. John’s occupation was farming.

John Randolph and Sarah Prince Campbell, circa 1900

The 1900 census for Fairview Township, Newton County (?) lists John R. Campbell age 46 as a mail carrier, land owner with a mortgage, married 27 years to Sarah, age 50, with seven children of which five were living.  Jackson, age 17, was a hack driver, and Harvey age 13 was a farm laborer. They housed a lodger named William Hicks. The 1920 census for Jackson County Arkansas, Richwoods Township, finds John R. Campbell age 67 and Sarah A. age 72 living in a rented home, with his occupation described as clergyman and evangelist.  The 1930 census for Amagon (Richwoods Twp) lists John R. age 80 and Sarah age 84 living in a rented home without occupation.

John Randolph was about five-nine at 185 pounds, although in older age he became “heavy set.” He worked as an itinerant preacher, following the Church of Christ denomination. “On September 29, 1895, John R. Campbell was authorized to work as an evangelist by the “Disciples of Christ, worshiping at Surrounded Hill Arkansas.” In 1889, he was ordained as a preacher by E. M Kilpatrick, and J. L. Kitridge, Clerk for Tex-Ark & Indian Territory: Credentials, page 32.

This poor quality image shows John Randolph in the process of baptizing a convert, date unknown.

According to one descendant, “John Randolph used to preach near Bradford [Arkansas] at least once a month; Aunt Nell [wife of Benjamin Harvey] remembers hearing him preach in 1914 near Swifton … said his name was Campbell and he was a Campbellite preacher. In 1917 he lived in the Pennington community and preached at different places. He received very little money as payment, mostly fresh vegetables, canned food, and some meats. Aunt Nell said she overheard some older women talking about the time he received a large handkerchief and two week’s board for holding a meeting. He preached some at Amagon and went to church barefoot … services were held in the schoolhouse.”

John Randolph and Sally, date and location unknown

He also rented farms to grow cotton and he traded horses and any other item of value. When his third child John William and family settled in Fayetteville after 1918, John Randolph and Sarah joined them, living first at John William’s store at the corner of Rock and Mill, then on Frisco Street and finally on the south side of Spring Street in the four hundred block before moving back to east Arkansas. His grandson John Carl later recollected that he drove an old Overland Blue Bird.

Overland Blue Bird

One descendant stated that “John R. Campbell was a preacher. He was really a corker. Pulled some pretty good stunts. Think he drank a lot.”  It was said by his grandson Zack that there were only two places that John Randolph would drink home brew, and that was “on this side of the Bible and on the other side.” His wife Sally dipped snuff, and sometimes smoked a cob pipe. Sally’s daughter-in-law (Mary Jane Ellis) stated that the Prince women were known to have “woods colts,” a euphemism for illegitimate children. In old age, Sally suffered a “dowager’s hump,” now known as osteoporosis. Sally and John Randolph both died in the Newport Arkansas area.

Mary Molly Campbell

Little is known about William and Melinda Campbell’s second child, Mary Molly. She is not listed in the 1860 census of Howell County Missouri. Later records show her spouse as John Willis Payne. Willis was born in 1854 in Kentucky, with both parents also born in Kentucky.

Willis and Mary Payne are found in the 1880 Newton County, Arkansas census, Jackson Township, at ages 25 and 26, respectively, evidence she was born in 1855 two years after John Randolph. Also in the household is her younger brother James, listed a ‘boarder.’

In a letter dated 1971 from Elizabeth Campbell Farmer, daughter of James “Jim” William Campbell, Elizabeth states: “Mary Payne is my papa’s (Jim Campbell) only sister. We called her Aunt Molly and she was married to Willis Payne.”

After 1880, Willis and Mary vanish from public records.

James William Campbell

James William Campbell with his first wife Nancy Jane Bell on his right and her half-sister and his second wife Eliza Lawson on his left, circa 1888. James holds a pistol in his hand.

At age 24, James married Nancy Jane Bell (age 19), daughter of William Levi and Nancy Busby Bell, September 18, 1882, in Newton County, Arkansas. This was two years after he was named as ‘boarder’ in the household of his sister Mary and brother-in-law Willis Payne. James and Nancy moved to Harrison (Boone County) Arkansas but in 1886 they moved back to Newton County where they settled in the Mt. Judea area (pronounced “Judy” by locals). There James dug wells and cisterns and built chimneys, as well as farming his land with cotton, corn, and small grains. He was a “great hand with a scythe and cradle and would get $1.00 per day for cutting wheat, a good wage for that time and more than most men were paid.” His son, Wesley A. Monroe, said they had “biscuits one to three times each day during the wheat harvest then cornbread three times a day for the rest of the year.”

He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1892 and remained in office for years. About the same time the family moved into a “box” house on land they homesteaded, a cause for celebration since most families lived in rough log cabins. In his capacity as JP, he married many couples and was said to shed tears during the ceremonies. He only went to school two days in his life, according to his descendants, but was a self-educated man. He taught school two summers – “Script” or conscript school. Each family paid one dollar for each child attending.

James and Nancy Jane Bell Campbell 1905, with children Dewey Floyd (between them) and Rosa on right

In the fall of the year, James would go away to pick cotton (probably in the river bottoms) and would take his wife’s handicapped half-sister Eliza Lawson as well as his older children. His wife Nancy Jane stayed home to care for the younger children and the homestead. It is said that James and Eliza lived as husband and wife during the cotton-picking trips.  Nancy spun thread and wove most the cloth used for their clothes, including coats. The pants and coats were made of half wool and half cotton, called “linsey-woolsey.” 

James also served in some capacity with the Spear Mining Company for their lead and zinc mine near Pendle. He was a school trustee for the board of education and helped to hire teachers. He was a “jack of all trades,” doctoring animals and people by setting broken limbs on splits that he whittled. He farmed and grew everything his family ate, including the livestock.

The eleven children of James and Nancy, as well as his child by Eliza Lawson and children by  Nancy Walls, his third wife, are not listed for sake of privacy.

Sarah E. Campbell

The 1860 census, taken July 19, gives Sarah’s age as one month. Thereafter, no record of her is found. Assumed she died in infancy.

~~~

And — as they say — so it goes.